Several times recently, the question of allowing people who are perceived to be sinners into the church has come up in conversation. Every time, our discussions have focused on two facts. The first, of course, is that we are all sinners saved by grace and forgiven by the boundless mercy of God. Every sin is heinous to God. Remember that Adam and Eve's disobedience with the fruit resulted in expulsion from the garden. We are the ones that consider our own sin as somehow less terrible than that of others. I have never found a sin scale in Scripture.
The second point in this ongoing discussion is that Jesus was known as the Friend to Sinners and spent time and enjoyed meals with many people who were considered the dregs of society. Heaven is full of sinners saved by grace. Take Moses and King David for example. Nowhere in Scripture do we see Jesus saying a sinner is too sinful to come to Him. God loves sinners, and so should we. He has not appointed us to be gatekeepers. We are called to be sowers and harvesters.
With all this said, there is an astounding bit of information included in this little verse that directly relates to this issue. "There was a woman who was a sinner." The Greek word translated as was is hen the present is used with the indicative mood it denotes present time". As I understand it, was here indicates ongoing activity. In other words, she had been a sinner and still was a sinner.
It may seem shocking, but it's true. With one single word, the answer to the question of exclusion is answered. No. Everyone is welcome at the foot of the cross, and, as a result, everyone should be welcome to come to Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict. Only God can change a sinful heart. What better place to encounter the Most High God than in a church service where we have gathered to worship Him? That is why we are there, isn't it?
This woman was a sinner, but she was welcome at the feet of Jesus.
We will soon see that she came to Him with many tears and much weeping. I suspect the time spent at His feet changed her life forever. What would have happened to her, however, if she had been refused access to Jesus? What would have happened to us if we had been refused access to Jesus? That transition time between the stirrings of conviction and the transformation of a sinner saved by grace may be difficult to watch, but it is a crucial time and one that needs considerable care and prayer.
Today, rejoice that the Most High God has poured out His mercy and grace on us and our loved ones, no matter the faults, and is even now working to transform us and make us new.